Languages of Nicaragua

The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish; however, Nicaraguans on the Caribbean coast speak indigenous languages and also English. The communities located on the Caribbean coast also have access to education in their native languages.



Spanish, or Nicañol as Nicaraguan Spanish is sometimes referred to, is spoken by 90% of the country's population. In Nicaragua the Voseo form is common, just as in other countries in Central and South America such as Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, coastal parts of Colombia, Honduras or Paraguay. Spanish has many different dialects spoken throughout Latin America, Central American Spanish is the dialect spoken in Nicaragua.

;Phonetics and phonologyIn Spanish, few words end in plosives. However, many such words are borrowed from English. In Nicaragua, all such stops are usually pronounced like 'c's. The Costa Rican ice cream shop "Pops", with franchises in Central America is pronounced by many people as "Pocs". "Internet" is sometimes pronounced "Internec", "Laptop" is pronounced "lactoc", and "robót" pronounced "robóc". This is sometimes extended to native Spanish words where such stops are found at the end of a syllable. For example, "Aceptar" is often pronounced "Acectar".

Some other characteristics of Nicaraguan phonology include:
* /s/ at the end of a syllable or before a consonant is pronounced like [h] .
* "j" (/x/), is aspirated; it is soft as the /h/ in English (e.g.: Yahoo).
* Intervocalic /b/, /d/, and /g/ show no sign of reduction, and are much more pronounced than in most dialects.
* There is no confusion between /l/ and /r/, as in the Caribbean.
* /s/, /z/ and in some cases /c/ (as in "cerrar") are pronounced as [s]
* /m/ at the end of a word tends to be pronounced as [n]

Indigenous languages

Several indigenous peoples on the Caribbean coast still use their native language, the main languages being Miskito language, Sumo language, and Rama language. Other Indigenous languages spoken include Garifuna.

;MiskitoMiskito is a Misumalpan language spoken by the Miskito people in northeastern Nicaragua along the Caribbean coast, especially in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region. The Miskito language is the most widely spoken indigenous language in Nicaragua, this is because the Miskito people also hold the highest population of Indigenous people in the country.

;SumoSumo (also known as Sumu) is a Misumalpan language spoken in Nicaragua by the Sumo people. There is wide dialectal variation, and sometimes the major dialects may be listed as separate languages.

;RamaRama is one of the indigenous languages of the Chibchan family spoken by the Rama people on the island of Rama Cay and south of lake Bluefields on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. The Rama language is severely endangered. Their language was described as "dying quickly for lack of use" as early as the 1860s. [Pim, Bedford & Seemann, Berthold (1869). Dottings on the Roadside, in Panama, Nicaragua, and Mosquito. London: Chapman and Hall] By 1980, the Rama were noted as having "all but lost their original ethnic language", and had become speakers of a form of English creole instead, Rama Cay Creole which is spoken by 8,000 - 9,000 people.Craig, Colette (1990). Review: Dictionary of the Rama Language. International Journal of American Linguistics 56.2:293-304] Language revival efforts began in 1980-1981 under the Sandinistas however, they were not successful. The fieldwork for the first dictionary of Rama was done during this time by Robin Schneider, a graduate student from the University of Berlin. [cite book |author=Nora Rigby |title=Dictionary of the Rama language: Rama, English, Rama-Creole, Spanish, English, Rama (Speaking with the tiger) |publisher=D. Reimer |location=Berlin |year= |pages= |isbn=3-496-00459-2 |oclc= |doi=] In 1992, only approximately 36 fluent speakers could be found among an ethnic population of 649 individuals in 1992, of whom only a few scattered individuals live outside Nicaragua. The number of speakers on Rama Cay island was only 4 in 1992, due to language shift to English that engendered Rama Cay Creole.

Minority languages

Nicaragua has many minority groups. Many ethnic groups in Nicaragua, such as the Chinese Nicaraguans and Palestinian Nicaraguans, have maintained their ancestral languages while also speaking Spanish and/or English. Minority languages include Chinese, Arabic, German, Italian among others.

Extinct languages

Nicaragua has a total of 3 extinct languages.

;MatagalpaThe Matagalpa language, which was also know as Pantasmas, was a Misumalpan language spoken by the indegenous Matagalpa people. In 1981 the population of the Matagalpa people was estimated at 18,000 - 20,000. The Matagalpa people live in the Central highlands of Nicaragua in the departments of Matagalpa and Jinotega. Matagalpa became extinct in the 19th century; the eponymous people now speak Spanish. [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Matagalpa | date= | publisher= | url = | work =Ethnologue | pages = | accessdate = 2007-09-09 | language = ] Only a few short wordlists remain. It was closely related to Cacaopera.

;SubtiabaThe Subtiaba language is an extinct indigenous Oto-Manguean language which was spoken on the Pacific slope of Nicaragua. In 1925 Edward Sapir wrote an article based on scant evidence arguing for the inclusion of Subtiaba in the his hypothesized Hokan group. Others have linked Subtiaba to the Jicaque and Tol languages, but since Suárez's work it is generally accepted that Subtiaba is an Oto-Manguean language. When Sapir wrote about it in 1925 it was already very endangered or moribund. [cite journal |author=aut|Sapir, Edward |authorlink=Edward Sapir |year=1925 |title=The Hokan affinity of Subtiaba in Nicaragua |journal=American Anthropologist (New Series) |volume=27 |issue=3,4 |pages=pp.402–435, 491–527 |doi=10.1525/aa.1925.27.3.02a00040]

;MonimboThe Monimbo language is an extinct language which is not classified.

ee also

*Demographics of Nicaragua


External links

* [ Explore Nicaragua Languages]
* [ History of the Matagalpa] language and people ((es icon)

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